About 100 people braved snow, cold and troublesome travel to attend two audiobook events in New York City sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association and held at the Park Central Hotel.
The Audiobook Rights Conference, held on February 19 and now in its second year, was hardest hit by Mother Nature. "We had a problem with turnout," commented Beth Baxter, an APA board member and owner of B&B Audio, who organized the event for the APA. With 13 buyers and 10 sellers on hand (a 35-participant limit was set for both buyers and sellers), Baxter called the day of half-hour, one-to-one meetings a "small but efficient" affair, adding that "I saw three things I wanted and hope I get them." A live auction scheduled to close the conference was canceled when no properties were offered.
On February 20, more people shoveled out and made it to the fourth annual Audiobook Job Market (JAM), which Baxter also coordinated with assistance from a group of volunteers. Twenty-four audiobook publishers and producers (who attend free of charge) and 55 potential audiobook narrators (who paid a $75 application fee and a $725 participation fee) converged, also at the Park Central Hotel, for morning auditions/readings followed by lunch and one-to-one meetings as well as a closing cocktail party. A series of mini-seminars for the talent ran concurrently in a nearby conference room during the morning session.
Seminars included information on marketing and self-promotion from L.A.-based audiobook producer and talent coach Laurel van der Linde, who accompanied more than 20 of her audiobook seminar students to the conference. One of van der Linde's former students, Patrick Lawlor, is now a very successful audiobook narrator and is hailed as one of JAM's greatest success stories. As for lightning striking twice, van der Linde remains optimistic. "I would not encourage anybody to attend JAM who's not ready," she said. "But I always tell people that you can really build a career at this if you work at it."
In other morning mini-sessions, noted audiobook narrator/actor Barbara Rosenblat shared some of her studio experiences and offered tips on preparation and reading to the newcomers; and AudioFile magazine founder and editor Robin Whitten spoke about audio reviews and her publication's sponsorship of an online talent listing featuring key information and sound clips from all those who registered for JAM.
Though many attendees commented on the steep price of admission, the majority of them were grateful for the opportunity to learn about breaking into a new career field, make contacts and receive constructive feedback. Cynthia Hessin from Denver, Colo., found the whole experience "helpful, but very mysterious." She was following through on her yearly resolution to "try one new hard thing each year." Tara Sitser called it "a wonderful opportunity," and noted that there was "probably no other way to learn about getting started in the field." And Margaret Durante, a New York communications consultant who previously worked in book publishing, said "This is a good, fun first step" toward becoming an audiobook narrator. Another attendee from the West Coast was overheard saying, "I like that people were straight with me. They were really clear and very specific about things I need to do. It's been a very positive experience."
According to Baxter, 90% of the publishers/producers from last year's JAM hired someone they had met at the event, and about 12 of last year's talent received work. This statistic suggests that many publishers/producers contacted the same talent. Twenty percent of this year's attendees have attended JAM at least once in the past, as well. This year talent could also choose a "no-show" option for $400 which allowed non-attendees to be listed within the Job Market Directory on the APA Web site. Baxter said approximately a dozen potential readers took advantage of the offer. "We provide a real service," she noted. "But this event could not occur without the cost."
For a behind-the-scenes look at JAM, please see the March 10 issue of PW, which will feature an account by one of the event's participants.